For Its 50th Anniversary, the Pop Culture ‘Smiley’ Face Gets a Lift by Street Artist André Saraiva

To celebrate, Smiley will be collaborating with fashion, lifestyle, and beauty brands on limited edition series.

Andre Saraiv has designed a special edition Smiley. Courtesy of Smiley.

The Smiley face—we all know it. The universal yellow and black face with its signature upturned grin, a quintessential pop culture symbol, is officially 50 years old this year. 

Trademarked by French journalist Franklin Loufrani in 1972, the image has been embraced and reinterpreted over the decades, by social movements, artists and musicians, including the Talking Heads, Nirvana, Acid House, DC Comics, Banksy and Murakami.

The Smiley face has become an emblem of positive thinking and unfailing belief in a better future ahead. To celebrate its 50-year milestone, the Smiley brand recruited the legendary graffiti artist André Saraiva to make his own iteration of the iconic logo. 

Andre Saraiv has designed a special edition Smiley. Courtesy of Smiley.

Andre Saraiv has designed a special edition Smiley. Courtesy of Smiley.

Born in Uppsala, Sweden, Saraiva came of age in the Parisian graffiti scene. His cartoonish characters, including his signature alter ego, Mr. A, soon became famous, cropping up around the world, in gallery and museum exhibitions as well as on the streets. The artist, who is now also a successful hotelier, has deep ties to the fashion world: he was the creative director for L’oeil, the French fashion magazine, from 2011 to 2015, and he has collaborated with brands including O-White, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Uniqlo, and L’Oreal. 

In his Paris studio, Saraiva created a series of designs that inject the iconic Smiley with street art style and a fun, energetic energy. Saraiva said he wanted to emphasize the sense of boundless positivity at the core of the Smiley brand, especially in this era of unprecedented change. 

The 50th anniversary of logo badge. Courtesy of Smiley.

The 50th-anniversary logo badge. Courtesy of Smiley.

“Smiley has been part of all the subcultures I liked; for me, it was the rave scene in the early 90s where it became a strong counter-culture icon. It’s a really strong symbol that almost everybody appropriates for themselves and makes their own story with it. Everyone can relate to it,” Saraiva said. 

He also noticed parallels between Smiley and Mr. A. “Mr. A is also another happy guy, so when we decided to work together, it was almost Mr A. meeting his big brother, Smiley,” Saraiva said. “In the history of graphic design, no other symbol has ever had such a duality—used simultaneously as both a positive mainstream driver and a counter-culture subverter of that very mainstream.” 

Raf Simons' Smiley hoodie. Courtesy of Smiley.

Raf Simons’ Smiley hoodie. Courtesy of Smiley.

Saraiva’s limited-edition set of designs and artworks have formed the basis of the Smiley brand’s anniversary project; these customized logos and placement prints will be used in collaborative collections with more than 50 fashion, lifestyle, and beauty brands for the Spring/Summer 2022 season. The Smiley brand will also be hosting pop-ups and live experiences throughout the year, along with promoting Saraiva’s global street art manifesto for positivity (the manifesto has been plastered on up city streets in major cities around the world and in 10 different languages. The posters can be downloaded here). Saraiva’s art has already appeared at Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi during David Guetta’s NYE concertCollaborations to look out for include those with Raf Simons, Sandro, Karl Lagerfeld, Market, Reebok, and Dsquared2. Signed, limited-edition prints can also be purchased at the Smiley pop-up at Galeries Lafayette.

The Skateroom skateboards with the anniversary logo. Courtesy of Smiley.

The Skateroom skateboards with the anniversary logo. Courtesy of Smiley.

The brand says that Smiley’s mission has been to spread good news and its founding mantra of “Take the Time to Smile” feels more needed now than ever. 

“After the challenging last couple of years, what better way to navigate out of these times with this campaign that aims to reverse a global smile deficit, spread positivity, and fill the world with smiles in 2022,” said Nicolas Loufrani, the CEO of Smiley. “This campaign has proved that Smiley’s unique, creative and positive symbolism continues to inspire some of the most influential artists, brands, and tastemakers across the globe.” 

See André Saraiva at work in the video below. 


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